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E00754: Basil of Caesarea, in his Letter 49 of the early 370s, praises a certain bishop Arkadios for having built a new church, and offers to send relics of martyrs for it, if he finds any. Written in Greek in Kaisarea/Caesarea of Cappadocia (central Asia Minor).

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posted on 30.09.2015, 00:00 authored by erizos
Basil of Caesarea, Letters (CPG 2900), 49

ΑΡΚΑΔΙῼ ΕΠΙΣΚΟΠῼ
(…)
Ὑπερήσθημεν δὲ ὅτι καί, μέριμναν πρέπουσαν χριστιανῷ ἀναλαβόντες, εἰς δόξαν τοῦ ὀνόματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ οἶκον ἠγείρατε καὶ ἠγαπήσατε τῷ ὄντι, κατὰ τὸ γεγραμμένον, εὐπρέπειαν οἴκου Κυρίου, εὐτρεπίσαντες ἑαυτοῖς τὴν οὐράνιον μονήν, τὴν ἡτοιμασμένην ἐν τῇ ἀναπαύσει τοῖς ἀγαπῶσι τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ Χριστοῦ. Ἐὰν δὲ δυνηθῶμεν περινοῆσαι λείψανα μαρτύρων, εὐχόμεθα καὶ αὐτοὶ συμβαλέσθαι ὑμῶν τῇ σπουδῇ. Εἰ γὰρ εἰς μνημόσυνον αἰώνιον ἔσται δίκαιος, κοινωνοὶ ἐσόμεθα δηλονότι τῆς ἀγαθῆς μνήμης τῆς δοθησομένης ὑμῖν παρὰ τοῦ Ἁγίου.
(…)

‘Letter 49
To bishop Arkadios
(…) We were very much pleased to hear that you, assuming a charge befitting a Christian, had raised a house to the glory of the name of Christ, and truly loved, as it is written, “the beauty of the house of the Lord,” preparing for yourself that heavenly mansion which is provided in His peace for those who love the name of Christ. If we can discover any relics of martyrs (λείψανα μαρτύρων/ leipsana martyrōn), we beg leave to join you in your endeavour. For if “the just shall be had in everlasting remembrance,” we shall certainly share in the blessed memory which will accrue to you from the Holy One.’

Text: Courtonne vol. 1 (1957), 129-130.
Translation De Ferrari vol. 2, p. 380-385, 420-431 (modified).

History

Evidence ID

E00754

Saint Name

Anonymous martyrs : S00060

Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

370

Evidence not after

379

Activity not before

370

Activity not after

379

Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Kaisareia/Caesarea in Cappadocia

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Kaisareia/Caesarea in Cappadocia Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Basil of Caesarea

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Construction of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic Transfer, translation and deposition of relics

Source

Born around 330 to an aristocratic Christian family of Neokaisareia/Neocaesarea of Pontus Polemoniacus (Anatolia), Basil was educated in Kaisareia/Caesarea, Antioch, and Athens. After his studies, he spent time in the monasteries in Egypt, before returning to Pontus, where he organised an ascetic community on his family estate in Pontus. In the 360s, Basil was ordained in Kaisareia/Caesarea, and, on 14 June 370, he was consecrated bishop there. He died on 1 January 379. Basil was a prolific writer, composing homilies, theological, ascetical, and liturgical works. His 369 letters form a major corpus on ecclesiastical politics and the broader history of Anatolia and the Christian East. On the manuscript tradition, editions and translations of this text, see: Fedwick, P.J., Bibliotheca Basiliana Universalis. 5 vols. Vol. I (Corpus Christianorum; Turnhout: Brepols, 1993), p. 363. http://pinakes.irht.cnrs.fr/notices/oeuvre/5913/

Discussion

The addressee and circumstances of this letter are unidentified. The letter is thought to date from the early years of Basil’s episcopate (according to the dating of Y. Courtonne). It seems that Arkadios was bishop of a neighbouring city and wrote to Basil announcing the dedication of a church. Basil’s spontaneous offer to provide relics is yet another attestation to the fact that the distribution and transfer of relics was broadly practiced by this time in central Anatolia.

Bibliography

Text edition and French Translation: Courtonne, Y., Saint Basile. Lettres. 3 vols (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1957-1966). Text and English Translation: Deferrari, R.J., Saint Basil, the Letters. 4 vols. Vol. 2 (Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge, MA/London: Harvard University Press, 1928), 380-385, 420-431. Further Reading: Courtonne, Y., Un témoin du IVe siècle oriental: saint Basile et son temps d'après sa correspondance (Collection d'études anciennes; Paris: Les Belles lettres, 1973), esp. 356-359. Radde-Gallwitz, A., "The Letter Collection of Basil of Caesarea," in: C. Sogno, B.K. Storin, and E. Watts (eds.), Late Antique Letter Collections: A Critical Introduction and Reference Guide (Oakland: University of California Press, 2017), 69-80. Rousseau, P., Basil of Caesarea (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).

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